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Posts Tagged ‘health’

I love Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and the end of the year because it’s a time that can be filled with joy and gratitude and renewal. It is the darkest time of year for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and we hold onto the knowledge that things change, that the world around us is  in constant motion, as are we. We think with hope of longer, warmer days and the blooming of spring.

But sometimes the holidays can be quite challenging. For many, it can be a time of loneliness, missing people who are not here or not being involved in the hustle and bustle of the masses. We might be confronted with people and patterns that are difficult for us to deal with gracefully. We might be overscheduled, overcommitted, or overburdened with expectations, either our own or other people’s. We might be tired from the year that’s ending.

I’ve come up with a list of tips for my own personal sanity this year, and I’m going to share them with you. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Prioritize and let go. Let go of as much as you can. Figure out what is truly important to you, and be flexible about everything else. This might include letting go of what other people might want from you, too.

2. Treat yourself. For me, this often means yummy consumables: pumpkin spice chai, hot cider, cookies, ice cream, holiday treats. For others, this might mean a massage or a trip to the library or window shopping or playing a video game.

3. Give yourself time. If you’re really busy, maybe this is five minutes at the end of the day to sit and do nothing. Maybe it’s time to take a bubble bath or time to take a walk or time to watch a favorite movie. For me this year, it’s time to read, and it’s truly blissful.

4. Let yourself feel how you feel. There can be so many shoulds, especially around the holidays when you “should” be perfectly happy and want to do all the things. But give yourself space to feel sad or lonely or angry or anxious or whatever emotion comes up. It’s fine to have a multilayered experience. It’s fine if the holidays are hard.

5. Make health a priority. Do your best to get enough sleep, to eat healthy foods, and to exercise to the best of your ability. (With a healing ankle, that means a five minute walk for me, but hey! Five minutes are five minutes.) Wash your hands. Stretch. Dress warmly if it’s cold outside.

6. Reach out to your people. Take the initiative to make plans that make you feel happy and safe. If you’re not able to spend the holidays physically with your people, remind yourself of their existence. Text, call, comment on Facebook. Surround yourself, either physically or virtually, with people who you like and who like you.

7. Hold onto hope. The future is full of possibilities.

This year's TREE. :)

This year’s TREE. 🙂

I hope you all have a peaceful and happy End of Year. But if that isn’t your experience, that’s just fine too. The wheel keeps turning, and the days keep going by. 2014 will be here soon enough.

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My friend posted a link to “Writing — for health and happiness?” a few days ago with a funny comment about how people use Facebook as therapy. The article talks about the therapeutic benefits of writing down thoughts and feelings and explores whether doing so online gives the same benefits as private writing. It also hints at a few obvious drawbacks to talking about traumatic experiences publicly, although it doesn’t explore that issue in depth.

But what I found most interesting about it had nothing to do with the internet: “…People who had had an early traumatic sexual experience were more likely to suffer health problems later in life… Prof Pennebaker said he realised it was because that experience was a secret.”

Secrets cause stress. Secrets cause health problems. Secrets can quite literally kill you (and I’m not talking about like in those “solve a murder every week” detective shows, either).

A big secret feels like it’s gnawing into you from the inside out. It’s always there, waiting for your fragile moments to twist you into knots. It works on you, changing who you are and how you see the world. It grows bigger and bigger the longer you wait, ever more impossible to talk about. It saps your happiness and mental well-being. And it causes physical consequences.

That’s why I talk again and again about the importance of having connections with other people. Writing about a secret will take away some of its power, and so will talking with a trustworthy someone. It doesn’t matter so much who it is, as long as that person knows how to be supportive: your family, your friends, your SO, your therapist.

Secrets left untold become all-consuming, but once they are out in the open, they return to their original sizes. And sometimes the act of keeping them can trap us, keeping us from facing the reality of a situation. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still hard and painful and traumatic. But some of their significance comes from the act of keeping them secret, and that part of the emotional load can be dropped.

I think this is part of why I always feel so confused when people say happiness isn’t something that can be improved upon. Secrets actively cause emotional unhappiness, and we can make the choice to tell them and work through them. Secrets lead to poor health, which also causes unhappiness (chronic pain, anyone?), and we can change our health risks by keeping a journal or finding even one person to talk to, online or off.

Sadly, I can’t have a discussion about secrets without adding this caveat: personal safety comes first. And telling secrets can sometimes jeopardize that. In such cases, you might need to seek professional help in order to keep yourself safe.

Telling secrets is hard. Writing down the truth is hard. Finding someone you can really trust is hard. Deciding to change is hard. And it might take a long time. But none of that changes the fact that keeping secrets is unhealthy.

Whereas finding a way to tell a secret might just save your life.

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While I don’t often make New Year resolutions (except when I do), I like to stop and take stock of my life at the end of the year and set some goals for the year to come. After all, it’s hard to live your life according to your priorities if you don’t know what your priorities are!

amy and nala christmas 2012

Writing:

In 2012, I had several more stories come out, and I qualified to become a full member of SFWA. I also sold my first (and second) science fiction stories. I spent the bulk of the year working on my YA novel The Academy of Forgetting.

My plan for 2013 is to query a large number of agents and complete another YA novel. I’d also like to participate in at least a couple weeks of Codex’s Weekend Warrior (writing flash fiction). And of course, I want to continue to increase my focus, improve my writing skills, and read a lot.

Health:

Well, given that I spent six months waiting for my foot to heal, this year was on the frustrating side. But I was able to stay focused on my writing through it all, which I am very pleased about. My tooth from the drama of 2011 rarely bothers me anymore. And since the fall I’ve definitely been in less overall pain than I have for the last few years.

My wish for 2013 is that I can continue this whole less pain trend. I’d like to begin gradually increasing my strength. What I wish for the most is that I can begin to reintroduce some activities that I love but haven’t been able to do the past few years. Like dancing! And hiking!

Travel:

I wanted to get out of the country in 2012, and that didn’t end up happening. I mean, I went to World Fantasy in Toronto, but given that I pretty much only saw the hotel, I don’t think that really counts. However, I fell in love with Seattle, got to see Chicago for the first time, and faced down a hurricane in New York, so the year wasn’t without its adventures. I attended seven writing events, including three I’d never done before, and had a truly fabulous time.

So my wish for 2013 will be the same as last year’s: that I leave the country. And actually SEE and EXPERIENCE stuff while abroad. I’m considering trying to travel somewhere in Europe pre-World Fantasy in Brighton, which seems the most likely way to make this happen this year. I’ve already mostly planned out which writing events I’ll be attending for the year, although a few remain up in the air.

Personal Growth:

Oh, 2012. I cannot sum it up in one paragraph. I learned a lot, I changed a lot, I made progress towards becoming the person I want to be. My understanding of myself and the world around me is clearer than it’s ever been.

My wish for 2013? To take a loooong vacation. Ha! But seriously, 2013 is going to be a year of external change, when I get to put my clearer understanding into practice. I anticipate a fair amount of trial and error, so that should be … exciting. I’ll build on what I’ve been working on for the past two years, continue to practice my own definition of assertiveness, and look to create good habits so I can conserve energy.

Have any goals for 2013 you’d like to share?

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At this time of year, I always feel like I’m straddling the flow of time. Half of myself is looking backwards and evaluating what has gone on before, while the other half is looking forward to what the next year may hold for me. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per say because I prefer a continuous evaluation process, but thinking in terms of units of time can be helpful when trying to look at the bigger picture of my life.

So, without further ado, here are a few reflections on 2011 and few wishes for the year to come.

Cute little Nala and me

Writing:

2011 was an exciting year because it was the first year I had something published, thus realizing a dream I have cherished since I was seven years old. Hooray! In fact, I had three short stories published this year, one of them to a pro market. I was also able to join SFWA as an associate member.

My wish for 2012 is that I am able to use the lessons I learned this year to increase both my productivity and my enjoyment in writing. (Being greedy, I also wish for more sales.)

Health:

The first half of 2011 was dominated by crazy dental problems. While that silly crown still often aches, the level of pain has subsided to the realms of the tolerable. I also had more ankle problems. But on the plus side, my knees continued to improve in a most pleasing fashion. I also began to eat more healthily, trying to limit my consumption of saturated fats in particular, and have done fairly well with it (although not when traveling. Eating healthily when traveling is ridiculously hard).

My wish for 2012 is to keep growing stronger so I have less overall aches and pains, and to continue following my moderate diet.

Travel:

2011 was the first year in a long time that I didn’t leave the country. Various health concerns dampened my travel ambition somewhat, and I mostly stayed close to home. My favorite trip of the year was my first time in Washington D.C. in March. I would definitely return there for a follow-up visit someday. We also attended the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, visited Disneyland with friends, and relaxed over Thanksgiving at our favorite Maui vacation spot.

I was able to attend five writing conferences and conventions, two local and three an easy traveling distance: Potlatch, FogCon, SCBWI LA, WorldCon, and World Fantasy. I particularly enjoyed attending the inaugural FogCon and moderating my first two panels, and catching up with my wonderful writer friends (and making new ones) at the larger conventions was fabulous as usual.

My wish for 2012 is to leave the United States. We’re thinking either Japan or certain favorite Western European locations…

Personal Growth:

I wrote about the two most important lessons I’ve learned this year last week. I feel like I’ve made a fair amount of progress on the people pleaser front and have developed a stronger backbone. I’m more likely to stand up for myself and less likely to take responsibility for everyone else. So, yay!

My wish for 2012 is to continue tackling my vicious perfectionist streak and to do further work towards trusting myself and my abilities. I’d also like to be able to reach out more to other people.

Happy upcoming New Year, dear readers! What are your wishes for 2012?


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